Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fox sighting!

I was absentmindedly looking out into the garden about a half hour ago and noticed something brown moving around. At first I thought it might be a small deer, but then an immediately recognizable face came into view: it was an adult red fox. It was sitting out in the sun grooming itself and scratching now and then. Every once in a while its eyes would start to close, as if the warmth from the sun might be inducing a nap. But it remained alert, continually turning its head this way and that.

This was probably the first time I've seen a fox seemingly at east in broad daylight. Usually I see them as a fleeting blur of color at the edge of the woods or fields.

When we first moved here a bit over fifty years ago, I saw a gray fox once. And there were local skunks back then, too. I have not seen a local skunk for decades. Opossums are still here, but they seem to be either very uncommon or very secretive - and more likely to be seen dead on the road than live in the woods. Groundhogs seem not to remain in the immediate area for long, but do occasionally pass through. Raccoons are a common sight. Foxes, always red foxes,  I see infrequently, but often enough to suggest that the local population is healthy and here to stay. They can occasionally be seen prowling the road side at night down in the park.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A mid-winter surprise

There was a surprise waiting for me out in the garden earlier today. At the front door there are plants of Cyclamen persicum, garden primroses and winter jasmine in bloom. But here's what's remarkable, and it would have been just as remarkable in the middle of the summer: there were bees, honeybees, many of them, visiting the flowers. I can't remember the last time I saw even one bee in the garden. Of the plants mentioned, only the cyclamens have a fragrance which I can detect - did they draw in the bees?

One of my neighbors several blocks away got started with honey bees last year. After she told me about that, I began to keep an eye on the flowers in the garden. But the bees never found my garden - or if they did they took no interest in it. During October and November, when there were plenty of asters blooming in the garden, I expected to see plenty of bees. But I don't think I  saw even one.

Were the bees I saw this morning from her hives?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Popovers again

I fell asleep last night resolving to make popovers for breakfast today. One of the tricks to integrating popovers into the morning routine is to get them into the oven before you start to do anything else. That way the 45-50 minute  cooking time passes quickly. By the time they are ready and you sit down to eat them, you can reward yourself with a few extra ones for what you've already accomplished that morning. If the only thing you've accomplished that morning was to read the morning paper, then be assured that a nice plate of popovers is a great way to assuage the anxiety provoked by reading the news. If you've done nothing but loaf and daydream while they were cooking, go ahead and dig in anyway: after all, you made them!

The last post on popovers was done in 2009; the image above looks a lot like the one posted back then, but the ones you see were baked and consumed this morning.   Popovers are very photogenic, aren't they?  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year's Day from the garden

The mild winters we've been experiencing in recent years have allowed those of us who play the "what's blooming on New Year's Day" game to take this sport a little more seriously - or at least to practice it with a bit more satisfaction. My list for today won't be much different from my Christmas list, but there is one big addition. I was working in the cold frames yesterday. I keep a rosemary bush going there to have a source for cuttings and the kitchen. It had grown too big, so I hacked it down to about four inch stubs. As I butchered the plant a flash of bright blue caught my eye as quickly as if the plant had been bleeding. Too late I realized that I had cut into one of the blue bloods of my garden: Iris cretensis had an open flower, the first it has produced here. Iris cretensis is a cold frame sized version of Iris unguicularis: it's only  a fraction of the size of the larger plant. I'll post an image when another flower opens later.

In the photos above, all of them taken only about an hour ago,  you see many of the old stalwarts of the winter gardebn: from top to bottom, the charmingly named wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus' (its botanical name is derived from Latin and Greek words for winter, flower and early; the cultivar name 'Luteus' is Latin for yellow), then Hamamelis 'Jelena' named for the late Jelena de Belder and one of the first of the modern hybrids to gain wide distribution and still very much worth having, then a home-grown-from-seed Camellia sasanqua, then a huddle of one-spot Galanthus elwesii monostictus (monostictus is Latinized Greek from the words for one and spot and calls attention to the fact that traditional Galanthus elwesii has two spots), then Helleborus foetidus which is not malodorous in spite of its name, then Jasminum nudiflorum the aptly named winter jasmine, and finally Cyclamen persicum. Some might object to the inclusion of the cyclamen because it is not a garden plant in this climate. But the plant shown has been outside since purchase about a year ago: I brought it in during a couple of hard freezes, but otherwise the only protection it has had has been a hand towel tossed over it on frosty evenings. I keep meaning to transfer it to one of the cold frames. It is surrounded by self-sown seedlings.

So, wouldn't you say things are off to a good start this year?